4G, LTE and Ting

The Ting / Sprint 4G LTE network upgrade will begin rolling out in earnest in mid-2012. Starting with Baltimore, Kansas City, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Currently, Sprint (and hence, Ting) offers 4G running on the WiMAX standard radiating outward from major centers across the US. To see if your area is covered, check out the Ting coverage map. Check the Data box, enter your city and state and hit Map It. Darker orange areas are covered with 4G WiMAX.

What is 4G LTE and How Does it Affect Ting?

4G and LTE network rollouts can be a confusing topic. Especially when some carriers seem to use the two terms as one (“America’s Largest 4G LTE Network,” for example) or even interchangeably. We’ll try to break it down…

What is 4G?

4G is the fourth generation of mobile communications. In cellular’s relatively short time at the fore, we’ve gone through several distinct generations starting with 0G, 1G, 2G, 3G and now (you might see a pattern developing), comes 4G. Things have gotten a little more confused with some carriers claiming 2.5G, 3.5G and other non-standard standards under the larger whole.

In short, all “4G” is not LTE… but all LTE is considered 4G.

What is LTE?

LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. At its core, LTE is a much faster mobile data technology with speed approaching or even besting your home DSL or cable connection. That’s only part of the story though.

LTE’s biggest mission, as the name suggests, is to provide room for mobile to continue to grow and evolve over, you guessed it, the long term. Long term in mobile really means about a decade.

LTE can service as many as 10 times the number of users on a node so if all the equipment on a cell tower is upgraded to LTE and all phones connecting to it are LTE, 10 times as many people can use the tower without issue. It’s a more efficient use of the mobile spectrum. That’s good.

When will Ting offer LTE?

As an MVNO using the nationwide Sprint network, Ting will offer LTE alongside and in the same places as Sprint. That means the cities mentioned off the top of this post (Baltimore, Kansas City, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio) will be first, receiving LTE capability mid this year. Next, as Sprint rolls out the LTE network to other major city centers, Ting will be able to offer LTE in those locations at the as well.

We have several LTE devices including datasticks, mobile hotspots and some pretty spiffy smartphones in-bound to coincide with the launch of the LTE network. More news as we’re able to share it.

What about WiMAX?

WiMAX is a 4G standard that gave early adopters much faster 4G data speeds. The Sprint (and hence Ting) WiMAX 4G network is pretty robust and radiates out from major city centers. Sprint brass aren’t planning any further roll-outs of WiMAX beyond 2012 though the support team has expressed they will continue to maintain and look after the WiMAX 4G network “for the next several years.” Gizmodo has an interesting and enlightening post on Sprint’s WiMAX and LTE plans moving forward.

Rest assured that 4G smartphones and data sticks / hotspots that run on the faster 4G network will continue to work as expected. While Sprint has stopped adding new 4G WiMAX cell tower equipment, it will continue to maintain and support the network. Where 4G WiMAX is unavailable, devices step down to the near ubiquitous 3G network with its up to 3.1 Mbps peak and 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps download speeds. In other words, even if the 4G WiMAX network were decommissioned entirely, 4G WiMAX devices would continue to work as 3G devices.

We’ll keep you posted as LTE developments allow. We’ll update the Ting blog and help.ting.com as more information becomes available. You can also catch us on Facebook and on Twitter as TingFTW.

EDIT: We’re offering regular device updates here on the Ting blog. Previously, we didn’t want to talk about our device lineup efforts before they bore fruit for fear of disappointing you. We’ve since realized that wasn’t very Ting of us. Please take these device update posts for what they are: an update on our efforts to get the latest and greatest devices. Not a set in stone device roadmap. With that said, please do take a look if you’d like to know what we’re working on on the device front.